While most Swedes have embraced the movement toward a cashless society, there is a growing number who are worried about the rush, with concerns being raised by some regulators in the country.
According to a report in The Guardian, in February the head of the central bank in the country warned that Sweden could be in a situation where all of the payments are being controlled by private sector banks. As a result, the Riksbank governor, Stefan Ingves, is calling for new laws to secure public control of the payment systems. He reportedly argues that the ability to make and receive payments is for the “collective good” of the country and should be within the government’s control.
“Most citizens would feel uncomfortable to surrender these social functions to private companies,” he said Ingves. “It should be obvious that Sweden’s preparedness would be weakened if, in a serious crisis or war, we had not decided in advance how households and companies would pay for fuel, supplies and other necessities.”
Björn Eriksson, 72, a former national police commissioner and the leader of a group called the Cash Rebellion, or Kontantupproret, told the paper that the comments from the central bank governor help bring the concerns about a cashless society to the forefront. Until now, said Eriksson, the Cash Rebellion has been dismissed as a complaint of the elderly and those that are not tech-savvy – but, as he noted, people are realizing that with a completely digital system, there is no way to defend the country if it is turned off.
“If Putin invades Gotland [Sweden’s largest island], it will be enough for him to turn off the payments system,” he said in the report. “No other country would even think about taking these sorts of risks, they would demand some sort of analogue system.”
When it comes to digital payments, the report noted that Sweden is divided. On one side is the people who embrace a cashless society, and on the other side are the consumers who are bothered by it. Critics think it is naive for Swedes to think they can abandon cash completely and rely only on technology. After all, if there are glitches or other technical problems, it could create a bad situation. The report noted that banks in the country realize that digital payments can also be vulnerable.
“Of course, there are people trying to abuse them, but they are no more vulnerable than any other method of payment,” said Per Ekwall, a spokesperson for Swish, the popular mobile payments system owned by Sweden’s banks. “From a macro perspective, Swish has made it safer, and cheaper.”